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I took my time with these essays, simply because they really and truly moved me. Olivia Laing meditates on pain, on loving, on cities, on loving and hating those cities, on the loneliness of being in a body. She does this through the eyes and themes of several different artists and does so with such expertise and empathy, I felt so much less alone just by reading. But I also started to feel a little better about the loneliness that is still forever embedded. It’s there, it’s a part of me, and it’s meant to be felt. This is a languorous and necessary read, one that I will revisit many times over.
“There is a gentrification that is happening to cities, and there is a gentrification that is happening to the emotions too, with a similarly homogenising, whitening, deadening effect. Amidst the glossiness, of late capitalism, we are fed the notion that all difficult feeling - depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage - are simply a consequence of unsettled chemistry, a problem to be fixed, rather than a response to structural injustice or, on the other hand, to the native texture of embodiment, of doing time, as David Wojnarowicz memorably put it, in a rented body, with all the attendant grief and frustration that entails.”— From Claire
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
#1 Book of the Year from Brain Pickings
Named a best book of the year by NPR, Newsweek, Slate, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, Elle, Publishers Weekly, and Lit Hub
A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring.
When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her midthirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to David Wojnarowicz's AIDS activism, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.
Humane, provocative, and moving, The Lonely City is a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.